Mind “The Gap”



I got my first electric guitar, a Fender Musicmaster (with a silverfaced Fender Champ) around 1981 or 82, I think. For the next three or four years, spent 2 to 3 hours a day trying to learn songs off of a few key records that I had, including:

  • Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy (The Who; horrible name—wait, an awesome name!)
  • Still Life (Rolling Stones live record)
  • For Those About to Rock (AC/DC)
  • Moving Pictures (Rush)
  • Under a Blood Red Sky (U2)

Let me try to paint a picture of this process for you. Because there was no iTunes or YouTube, all this woodshedding had to be done physically.

Prepare to play.

Drop the needle (or maybe, if you were lucky, hit play on the cassette player).

Listen, try to play along (God help you if they weren’t perfectly in tune).

Try to work out what you got wrong, and then listen again. And again. And again. And again.

I think one of the main differences, creatively speaking, between this era and the 60s-80s, is something I call, “The Gap.” Basically, “The Gap” is that mysterious place between what I heard coming out of the speakers and what my fingers produced. The gap used to be large, because technology and information didn’t exist for you to know exactly what Jimmy Page, or The Edge, or Alex Lifeson was playing.

So you had to make a creative decision for yourself.

And that creative decision, made inside “The Gap” would lead to new discoveries, new approaches, new thoughts about your instrument. 

The thing is, today “The Gap”, at least in the context of learning songs is almost nonexistent. You can dial up on YouTube, or a myriad of web pages, just about every single bit of information about a musician:

  • his or her gear
  • the gear they used on a particular track
  • video of how they played
  • the chord charts
  • inaccurate versions of the chord charts
  • their thought process

The list goes on and on and on.

“The Gap”—the place of mystery and creativity—has shrunk, at least for learning music. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s disappeared.

If you’re doing creative work: learning an instrument, writing, simply coming up with new ideas, you must find “The Gap” in your life. 

  • Where are you going beyond your boundaries?
  • Where do you have to make a “best guess” as to what to do next?
  • Where can you say, “I’ve gotten all the best information I could find, but I’m still uncertain about XX% of this process?”

Because that’s where your Gap is now. And that’s where you have to move to.


3 thoughts on “Mind “The Gap”

  1. Dude, great article. I remember being a kid and not knowing how drummers got a rim shot sound. I thought perhaps it was a second snare drum tuned higher, or maybe they were hitting a tom. Had no idea. It took me a while to wrap my mind around it cause there was a hug gap over something so simple. This gap made me search on how to get that sound. The gap was a drive to learn and explore.

  2. Hmm, I’m with you here, I think there are a lot of important topics that can be rabbit trailed off of this idea. For instance: the “gap” for me is a two-edged sword. I’ve never been patient or skilled enough to try and learn the parts exactly, so I spent a lot of time approximating. Because I spend a lot of time approximating I’m a pretty lousy guitar player. However, there are a few things (and I mean a very FEW things) that I do fairly well and most of those have to do with certain influences that got a hold of me early, and how my approximation s get filtered or reborn vis-à-vis these particular influences. Hence, I have a very particular style, but almost no versatility.

    I think this really comes into play with worship music and the way we arrange it. It bothers me that for many churches the ideal would be to cover the tune exactly as it comes off a recording. Those more skilled at the “gap” might have a little more creative fire-power to bring to the table. Instead of being a cover band, why don’t we take the Churches best music and arrange it for the musicians we have in our bands, for the congregants in our sanctuaries, for the people who are actually singing the music. Instead of the way that seemed to suit the producer in the studio.

    Of course, that’s offensive to some, because we have some sensibility about how songs “belong” to people. People have said to me “that’s the where that Xxxx Christian Singer wanted that particular 20 bar guitar solo to go” But for those of us in the Church, it would seem fitting that Church music be written for the Church and thusly, used for the Church…. I digress. Rabbit Trails.
    Good thoughts E.

    • Thanks, Noah… I totally agree. I know that I fall victim to the “Cover Band” mentality at times, simply due to limited time and energy, but the most exciting times occur when I’m able to react to OUR musicians, OUR circumstances, OUR context, and turn a song into something slightly different and unique. Wish I could do it more…

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